Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lancaster on Galatians 2:15-18?

I've always struggled to make sense of Paul's statements in Galatians 2:15-18, particularly the last statement: "For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor."  What was being torn down and then rebuilt?  The following quote from D. Thomas Lancaster's recent book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians (which I discovered via a post from James at Morning Meditations) immediately brought clarity to this long-time question for me:
“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that [whether Jewish nor Gentile] a person is not justified by the works of the law [i.e., conversion, circumcision, etc.] but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we [the Jewish believers] also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified. But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners [by eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles], is Christ then a servant of sin? [In other words, does becoming a believer mean we forsake Torah? Is eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles really a sin against Torah?] Certainly not! For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. -Galatians 2:15-18

That is to say to Peter, “If you of all people, Peter, rebuild a sharp division between Jew and Gentile by removing yourself from table fellowship with Gentiles, you are rebuilding the barrier that you originally tore down. If you refuse to eat and worship with them, you rebuild the barrier that you originally tore down. You yourself were the first of the apostles to tear that separation down. If now you are putting it back up, then you are admitting that you were wrong in the first place, and you are proving yourself to have been living in sin and transgression.”
Anybody else find this interpretation convincing?  Has anyone else read it somewhere else before, or come to similar conclusions from reading the letter?  If so, please comment--I'm curious.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Robert Alter on continuity in Genesis

In response to scholarly descriptions of the story of Judah and Tamar as "a completely independent unit...[having] no connection with the drama of Joseph, which it interrupts...", Robert Alter employs literary analysis to craft a compelling argument for a strong connection between the two stories. Among numerous points made in the opening chapter to his The Art of Biblical Narrative, I found the following:
It is instructive that the two verbal cues indicating the connection between the story of the selling of Joseph and the story of Tamar and Judah were duly noted more than 1500 years ago in the Midrash: "The Holy One Praised be He said to Judah, 'You deceived your faith with a kid. By your life, Tamar will deceive you with a kid.' . . . The Holy One Praised be He said to Judah, 'You said to your father, haker-na.  By your life, Tamar will say to you, haker-na' " (Bereshit Rabba 84:11,12).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Paula Frederiksen on sacrifice and sin

In a recent video shared at the Rosh Pina Project blog, N.T. Wright muses out loud about a need for  more study of sacrifice actually meant.

I thought I'd also point out that Paula Frederiksen's 3-part lecture series on the concept of sin in the ancient world is really excellent--and quite relevant, I think, to Wright's point.

HT: Carl Kinbar of Midrash, Etc for telling me about these lectures last fall.